It’s a rough day, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. So if you need to distract yourself from the reality of the present, Hyperloop is here to help. And it’s going beyond the tube to do it.
Hyperloop One, the company leading the race to bring Elon Musk’s vision of high-speed tubular travel to life, has signed a deal with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority. Representatives say the LA-based startup will spend the next three months working with the government, McKinsey & Co., and the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group to figure out how to actually build this thing in Dubai, and where it should run.
That’s it for reality. The rest of today’s announcement is the stuff Hyperloop One and the other companies in this sparse concept hoping to become an industry have been aces at from the start: slick renderings and bold promises.
Hyperloop One promises a “beautiful and seamless” experience. First, open the app and pop in your destination. Things get fancy real quick: “An autonomous pod appears,” says the company’s blog post, “and drives you into the portal and docks inside a waiting Hyperloop One transporter and off you go.”
Then: “At portals, pods are loaded onto the transporter and hyperjump to another portal, where they merge onto the street and drop passengers off at their final destination.”
Yup: Hyperloop One’s pods won’t just flirt with the sound barrier inside near-vacuum tubes. To get a rider all the way to her destination, that pod will leave the tube—presumably, “hyperjump” means hopping off the levitation rig and onto road-going wheels—and start driving itself down city streets.
BTW, the pod, which looks a toaster Justin Bieber wrapped in chrome, will seat between six and 100 people and feature translucent walls for looking outside. Because, sure, why the hell not?
“We don’t sell cars, boats, trains, or planes,” Josh Giegel, Hyperloop One’s engineering chief, said in the blog post. “We sell time.”
To be clear, the company at present also does not sell Hyperloops. It’s in a vicious, funky legal battle with its erstwhile top engineer Brogan BamBrogan and three other former employees. And leaked documents revealed that just after raising $50 million, according to Forbes, the company’s hoping to pull in another $250 million early in 2017. Oh, and nobody’s proven it’s possible to take the sound engineering principles behind Hyperloop and turn them into an actual transportation system.
Of course, solving the last mile problem of its potential riders with autonomous cars would be a great move. But Hyperloop still hasn’t figured out the first mile: how to design, build, fund, permit, and prove that levitating pods can safely travel through tubes at hundreds of miles per hour.
Well, maybe it’ll work in Dubai.